Blanche Lincoln didn't suffer the same fate as her Senate colleague, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, but her political future is by no means assured. The two-term Democrat was forced into a June 8 runoff with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. With 62 percent of the vote counted, Lincoln and Halter each have 43 percent of the vote. A third candidate, conservative businessman D.C. Morrison, has about 14 percent, enough to deny any candidate a majority.
Lincoln, a centrist, faced a late-starting but highly energized opposition in the form of Halter, who was backed by liberal netroots and labor unions angry with Lincoln's opposition to the public option in the health care bill as well as a record they described as flirting with Republicanism. Lincoln's supporters argued that Arkansas — which gave President Obama just 39 percent of the vote in 2008 — was not the kind of state where a liberal voting record could survive. The irony, of course, is that the Republicans, who smell blood in this race, are attempting to paint Lincoln as an out-of-touch liberal.
But before she can focus on the GOP, she still has to dispatch Halter in the June 8 runoff. The key may be where Morrison's votes go. Ideologically, they may be more aligned with Lincoln. But if those voters were trying to send an anti-Washington/antii-establishment message, a sizable number could very well go to Halter.
On the Republican side, Rep. John Boozman just barely reached the 50 percent threshold in a field of eight candidates, avoiding a runoff. He has the luxury of sitting back while Lincoln and Halter go after each other for three more weeks.